In one study cited at the conference, University of California, San Francisco, researchers found twice as many women with HIV have been victims of partner violence as HIV-free women. Women who escape domestic abuse may not have the self-esteem to negotiate safe sex with future partners, specialists said.
UNICEF's Rao Gupta called for innovative solutions to help women and girls protect themselves. She pointed to an experiment in Kenya that pays poor families a few dollars a month to help support AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children. Researchers found teens in those households stayed in school longer rather than quitting to work, and reported fewer risky sexual behaviors such as multiple partners and unprotected intercourse — maybe because they weren't turning to sex for money.
And Serra Sippel of the Center for Health and Gender Equity said too many HIV prevention efforts are missed opportunities for women. Consider: Projects around Africa pushing male circumcision lower men's risk of heterosexual infection — but they don't educate those men's wives and girlfriends about the importance of continuing condom use since the protection isn't perfect, Sippel said.
"Women are the blind spot in the AIDS conversation," she said.
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